University of Dayton students started lining up outside UD Arena more than two hours before the game Wednesday against Virginia Commonwealth. Five of them held huge poster boards featuring photos of the five Dayton Flyers seniors and hundreds of student signatures.
The students showed their love to the seniors by giving them the posters after Dayton won 79-72 to clinch the first outright Atlantic 10 championship in school history. The love goes both ways, of course. Dayton’s players jumped into the student section after the game and created memories and images that will last as long as UD Arena does.
RELATED: UD ‘getting closer’ to arena upgrade
There have been many great nights on Edwin Moses Boulevard. This game has to fall somewhere in the top 10, though senior forward Kendall Pollard has high standards.
“This was No. 3,” he said. “My first game here against IPFW was No. 1. Boise State (in 2015 First Four) was No. 2.”
Here are seven things to know about Dayton’s 29th game:
1. Flyers aren’t done: Dayton (24-5, 15-2) closes the regular season with a game at George Washington (17-13, 9-8) at 8 p.m. Saturday in Washington, D.C. The Colonials have won four games in a row. They beat Fordham 67-66 on the road Wednesday on three free throws by Tyler Cavanaugh with 0.9 seconds to play. GW overcame a 16-point deficit in the second half.
A victory at the Smith Center, where the Flyers have lost three straight games, would give Dayton its most regular-season victories since it was 25-6 in 2008-09.
UD has won nine games in a row. It hasn’t won more than three straight games to end the season since it won its last seven games in 1990. It last won 10 games in a row to end the regular season in 1967-68.
“Our hard work paid off,” said senior Charles Cooke, who scored 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting in his final game at UD Arena, “and I’m really happy, but — and there is a but — there’s a long way to go. There is amount of satisfaction with this, but we are not satisfied with nothing. We want to battle this thing out to the very end. We want to make a deep run.”
2. Effect on NCAA picture: Dayton ranks 21st in the RPI, 32nd in the Pomeroy ratings and 33rd in the Sagarin ratings. According to BracketMatrix.com, which sums up all the predictions by the various experts, Dayton is straddling the line between a No. 7 and 8 seed. It has four top-50 wins and 11 top-100 wins.
“The challenge right now will be how far do they want to go,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “They have a collectiveness about them. They have a toughness about them. They believe in one another. They’ve done things the right way for a long time. But you’ve got to go to GW and win that one, too. You’re playing for more right now. What we’re playing for is the opportunity to get that momentum where you can create some magic at this time of year. This group can do it. It’s going to be up to them how far they want to take it.”
3. VCU is tough: The Flyers never trailed, and there were only two ties in the opening minutes. Dayton led 45-38 at halftime and stretched the lead to 14 points with 12:08 to play. The Rams were never out of it because of an efficient offense that attacked the rim all night. VCU scores all but six points in the paint or at the free-throw line.
TOM ARCHDEACON: Cunningham saves Dayton
Mo Alie-Cox did most of the damage, leading VCU with 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting. VCU beat UD 73-68 on Jan. 27 because of second-chance points and dominated that stat again (18-5).
“We just kept attacking the glass every opportunity we got,” forward Mo Alie-Cox told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “That was one of our game goals. We killed them on the glass, and when any of the bigs got the ball, we just kept attacking and attacking.”
4. Pressure defense hurt: The Rams turned up the full-court pressure to get back into the game. Dayton committed 11 of its 15 turnovers in the second half.
“I thought we were good for about 32 minutes, and then their zone really got extended,” Miller said. “We weren’t able to get organized enough. Our offense stalled.”
5. Miller criticizes himself: Pollard played only 17 minutes because of foul trouble. He picked up his fourth foul with 15:24 to play and didn’t return to the game until the final minutes.
“That was bad,” Miller said. “I should have got him out with 26 seconds left to go before the media timeout. He was going back down on offense, so we figured we could get one possession out of him. Really poor move on my part.”
6. Smith excels: Dayton point guard Scoochie Smith followed his 11-point overtime performance Friday at Davidson with another standout effort. He scored 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting with six assists, four rebounds and one turnover in 37 minutes.
The CBS Sports Network had a microphone on VCU coach Will Wade, who was heard asking his team, “Who can guard Scoochie?” If Smith looked as if he were having fun, he was. He finished his career 58-8 at UD Arena.
“Playing against VCU is always fun,” Smith said. “That’s a players’ basketball game. It’s not about Xs and Os. When I was standing with Doug Brooks at the end of the game, that’s what we talked about. I told him, ‘It was fun playing you guys.’ It’s fun playing against the best talent.”
7. Final chance: VCU twice cut Dayton’s lead to two points in the final four minutes. Alie-Cox missed a jumper to tie the game with 2:27 to go. With 19 seconds to play, JeQuan Lewis missed a 3-pointer that would have given the Rams the lead. He shot it from the same corner in front of the VCU bench where Melvin Johnson missed what would have been a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in overtime last season at UD Arena.
VCU shot 2 of 15 from 3-point range in both games against Dayton.
“We hadn’t had the lead all game, and I felt like on the road, we had to go for the kill shot and try to get the 3,” Wade told the Times-Dispatch. “I didn’t think overtime favored us too much, so it was the right time to call it and the right time to run it.”
Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.